TODAY: Russia attacks central Georgia after calls for a ceasefire; US condemns situation; Cuba backs Russia; Georgia being punished for Western aspirations?; media reports show discrepancies; ballerinas and Lake Baikal. The embracing of two female athletes from Russia and Georgia on an Olympic podium is “a sign of national unity as their countries wage war.” Following continued attacks on central Georgia late into Sunday, despite Georgia’s calling for a ceasefire for 5am Sunday morning, Russia – and Vladimir Putin – have received widespread condemnation. US President George W Bush has criticized Russia’s actions against Georgia, calling them “disproportionate”, Barack Obama and John McCain both called for Russian forces to be withdrawn, and at a UN Security Council meeting, the US’s Ambassador said that the situation would complicate relations between Washington and Moscow. One report says that many Georgians blame the US for not intervening. Cuba says it backs Russia’s actions.
The director of Radio Free Liberty says that Russia is punishing Georgia for its Western aspirations and its desire to join NATO, and UK newspaper The Independent agrees. “The Russian bombing campaign, buoyed by far superior air forces, threatens to weaken, divide or even destroy the Georgian state.” One journalist points out that it was Vladimir Putin who “strongly condemned the [Georgian] military attack and vowed retaliation”, not Medvedev.Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister accused foreign media of pro-Georgian bias in their coverage of the ongoing conflict, saying that Western media coverage of the events in South Ossetia is “a politically motivated version, to put it mildly.” Russia Today demonstrates an equal and opposite bias in its focus on South Ossetian casualties. The Moscow Times discusses the uneven reporting trends, saying that few Russian sources mention Russia’s bombing, and claims that one reporter who did had the rest of his broadcasts cancelled. Dmitry Medvedev has accused Georgia of “genocide”, saying that its actions forfeit its right ever to govern the region, and has supposedly rejected a phone conversation initiated by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Reuters reports on the “PR battle”, and The Guardian publishes letters written in Georgia’s defense. See also photo gallery 1 and 2 from The Guardian. Russia has meanwhile boosted its forces in Abkhazia to more than 9,000.On Russia’s post-Soviet ballerina machine, and the fight to save Lake Baikal.PHOTO: Russia’s Natalia Paderina, left, and Georgia’s Nino Salukvadze hug and wave during the medal ceremony after the women’s 10 meter air pistol final at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008. Paderina won the silver medal and Salukvadze won bronze. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)